Thursday, July 01, 2010

Is John Calipari the Devil?

At the risk of offending any Kentucky fans among my readers, this column by Jeff Neuman on John Calipari is so spot on that I had to post it. I was astounded, while watching the NBA draft, to hear John Calipari claim that the fact that five Kentucky players went in the first round was "the biggest day in Kentucky basketball history." Apparently, the new goal of Kentucky fans is to house hot shot players for one year, lose in the tournament and then wave good-bye to those players as they pocketed their big new paychecks. Forget about winning that championship. Such an ambition is so yesterday for ol' Cal. Neuman writes,
Most would agree it was bigger than the day in March when West Virginia beat Kentucky in the East Regional final.

Calipari told Dan Patrick the day after the draft that having so many players taken so early "was like winning the national title."

Patrick could well have asked, "How would you know?" A national championship is as absent from Calipari's resume as his team's accomplishments are from the official NCAA record book.

As for his NBA credentials, in his two-plus years with the New Jersey Nets, he had a .391 winning percentage and no playoff victories, the latter record resulting from three actual losses rather than forfeits after the fact.

Calipari believes the high picks demonstrate his unique ability to prepare players for the NBA. "We're a players-first program," he said.

I think that's great. It's the responsibility of every adult to make sure that young people with basketball skills know that everything's about them.

Four freshmen and a junior are heading to the pros from the Kentucky campus, having learned the vital lesson that nothing will be expected of them beyond the sidelines. Calipari believes that young people will flock to his program, looking to add their names to the school's glorious list of first-round draft choices.

He's probably right. The devil has always been able to tempt the unwary by appealing to their vanity.
As Neuman points out, the true contrast to Calipari's Kentucky team is Mike Krzyzewski's Duke team.
"I was upset that we lost," top draft pick John Wall said of his one Kentucky season, "but you've got to move on about it, and I think we had a great college career."

They take a different approach in Durham, where Mike Krzyzewski started three seniors and two juniors last season, none of whom were drafted at all. Still, Duke did win the NCAA championship, which makes for a pretty great college career in its own way.
What's more impressive - having all those lottery picks on his team and bombing out in the tournament or taking a group of guys with seniors who didn't make the draft and win it all? Those Blue Devils are a different type of Devil from the one whom Calipari represents.


blogbudsman said...

I don't understand. Isn't college about advancing your career. And didn't those five young man just do that. And wouldn't others be encouraged to come play there with the likelihood that they would continue their success and advance to the pinnacle of their desired trade. Championships? Sounds kinda selfish to me.

tfhr said...


Winning a championship and a high pick in the draft don't have to be mutually exclusive, as they seem to be in this case.

There's also something to be said for being a "team" player, particularly when you are on a team that is not made entirely of NBA caliber athletes. Which leads us back to the sorry state of college athletics and the end game for "student" athletes that do not have the good fortune to land a professional contract.

Tax dollars support college athletics but what are we really doing with that money when it comes to "student" athletes that cannot compete at the professional level and cannot compete academically? Could that money be better spent supporting academic endeavors that equip students to become productive members of society? That wouldn't be selfish, would it? Maybe I'm just a little annoyed that the NBA, NFL, etc, make great use of our public colleges and universities as a farm system for their respective industries. That would be fine if tax dollars were not the life's blood of college athletics.

Locomotive Breath said...

That's always been the knock against Duke basketball players. Danny Ferry and Christian Laettner - they didn't do that well in the NBA. Blah, blah, blah.

I'm pretty sure K realizes that his contract says for him to win NCAA games for Duke and not run a farm team for someone else. Calipari will soon be reminded of the same thing if he doesn't do any better than he did this year.

Meanwhile, many of those guys who went early end up blowing their money. Too bad they didn't stay around for the college education.

How (and Why) Athletes Go Broke

Recession or no recession, many NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball players have a penchant for losing most or all of their money. It doesn't matter how much they make. And the ways they blow it are strikingly similar.